Venezuela Weekly: Resumption of Negotiations Postponed

(As we are go to publication, the United Nations Human Rights Commission has published the report from Michelle Bachelet’s trip to Venezuela, to be officially released tomorrow, July 5. We will have full coverage in the next edition of Venezuela Weekly. -DS)

News that Norwegian-led negotiations between the Maduro and Guaidó governments would resume emerged on June 29. But two days later, expectations were disappointed when the opposition said they would not participate, given the death-by-torture of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo.

President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó pointed out that there had been “no official statement that we would attend a new round” of dialogue,” and that “it is never going to be a good moment to mediate…with kidnappers, human rights violators, and a dictatorship.” These statements were widely regarded in social media as Guaidó ruling out possible negotiation in the future, but that is likely an over-interpretation. It is common in acute conflicts for negotiations to be suspended by one side because of the actions or violence of the other side, but resume further down the road as the context evolves.

  • Ivan Briscoe of the International Crisis Group argues in Foreign Affairs that while there is an increasing consensus among international stake-holders as well as Venezuelan citizens in favor of a negotiated settlement, “pro-government and pro-opposition leaders absolutely mistrust one another’s motives and still believe that a total victory is possible.”
  • In a new piece in The Hill, David Smilde and Abraham Lowenthal respond to Sen. Marco Rubio’s criticisms of their New York Times piece in June, suggesting that simply pushing for a collapse will not bring about desirable change and that Cuba could well be a positive force in a solution.
  • During the G20 summit in Osaka, the BRIC group of developing countries (which includes Brasil, Russia, China, India and South Africa) discussed Venezuela and pledged they would help bring the two parts in the negotiation table and push for “a breakthrough.” This is significant since Brazil and Russia are countries with opposed views on Venezuela but which could have significant influence.
  • In an extended interview, President of Russia Vladimir Putin expressed his backing for Maduro and mocked Guaido, but suggested that if there were new elections he would recognize Venezuela’s new president.

More International Engagement

  • During the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Colombia last week, Uruguay walked out of the meeting in protest over the inclusion of Guaidó’s envoy as the representative of Venezuela. Other countries, including Mexico, also expressed objections.
  • Following the May European Parliament elections, the European Union (EU) is currently who will lead its various institutions. It seems that Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell, 72, will become the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs (the European Parliament still needs to ratify the proposal provided by national governments). This is a positive development as Borrell has been a strong motivator of EU’s interest in Venezuela over the past year and a supporter of the International Contact Group.

Human Rights

The family of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, the Venezuelan opposition, and all the major human rights organizations accused the government of torturing Acosta to death. Acosta Arévalo was arrested on June for allegedly plotting to overthrow and assassinate President Nicolás Maduro.

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that she was “deeply concerned” by the death of Acosta, and asked the Venezuelan authorities to “conduct a prompt, thorough, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into his death.” Bachelet made clear that the Venezuelan authorities are “responsible for the life, and the physical and psychological integrity of all people deprived of their liberty.” Juan Guaidó’s ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Vecchio berated Bachelet on Twitter saying that an independent investigation was impossible in Venezuela and that she either knew nothing about Venezuela or was an accomplice to Maduro.
  • The European Union and the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on Venezuelan authorities to launch an independent investigation.
  • The reaction of the Maduro government was to ask the country’s chief prosecutor to investigate Acosta’s death. Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor announced that two low-ranking intelligence officials had been charged for homicide.
  • In another case of police brutality against protesters, in the western state of Táchira, a teenager lost his sight after the police shot a blast of rubber bullets at his face. The teenager was participating in a demonstration against shortages of cooking gas. Two police officers have been arrested.
  • Venezuelan human rights organization Foro Penal Venezolano said that as of July 1 there were 630 political prisoners in the country, down from the 773 in June. The number has gone down because the Maduro government released and deported 59 Colombian citizens who were held for almost 3 years, accused of planning terrorist activities.

Migration

  • The Chilean Central Bank cut interest rates, saying that because of Venezuelan migration to the country, demand could be stronger, with wages could remain the same, leading to economic expansion.

Economy

  • The Venezuelan government is adapting its oil production to skirt US sanctions, by producing oil suitable for refineries in India and China.